The Dinner Party

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by Tess Daum, Housemom at the Faith Home

We became houseparents at Eagle Ranch in 2018 after 6 years in Dubai – yes, that Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where my husband was working as an instructor pilot. To say the difference in locales is stark is an understatement. We recently got to host dinner for some friends we had made while we lived there who are now stateside. They were excited to see Eagle Ranch and learn more about this thing we call “homelife.”

My husband Cole, our 16-year-old son, Carter and I  live in the Faith Home, where at any given time, we help care for up to seven boys, between ages 8-12. With our program, children go home every other weekend to spend time with their family and practice what they’ve been learning at the Ranch. The weekend we hosted our friends, it happened to be a weekend the kids were here with us.

In the few hours before my friends arrived, I ran around the house, picking up random objects, a tennis racket, socks that no one wanted to claim, a fishing lure… the usual. I reached into the kitchen cabinet and was momentarily confused as I looked at the crusty, filthy bowl I now held in my hands. Then, as only a boy mom could, I quickly deducted what had happened.   One of our dear boys had unloaded the entire dishwasher full of dirty dishes into the cabinets that morning without once taking a minute to noticing the dishwasher had not been run the night before, and ran off for school, none the wiser.

Working faster now, I threw open cabinets and silverware drawers, pulling out everything that did not stand up to the highest level of scrutiny and some extra just to be sure. The sink was now filled with dishes, and I still had not finished forming the burgers or putting the baked beans in the oven.

The boys and our own son arrived home from school, and soon the house was filled with chatter, homework pages, backpacks and dirty lunch containers.

As I herded them out of the front door to play on the playground, I was not surprised when one boy made a bee line instead towards the back porch where Cole was cleaning off the grill. This boy did not have a father at home and was very drawn to anything traditionally “manly” my husband was doing.  I brought out the patties and saw the boy’s face, intent on taking directions from Cole as he showed him how to light it up. Moments like this allowed him to just be a 10-year-old kid and put aside the hurts and confusion he often dealt with of his abandonment and subsequent adoption.

All too soon, our friends, Michelle and Zach, pulled up. Introductions were made and a grand tour of the Ranch was given, the boys jumping out at every stop to give them a true look at the beauty of the Ranch, from the cozy chapel in the woods, to the spacious lit up basketball gym stocked with balls.

Then, we arrived back at Faith Home for dinner. By now, most of the kids were hungry, so tempers flared a bit as they threw a football in the yard while we put the last touches on the meal. Michelle chatted about how she and Zach had watched the videos of the Ranch but were actually more interested to see what happened “behind the scenes.”

I’m not sure what she had in mind, but just then we looked out the window to see one of the boys give another one a face full of mulch out of the flower bed. My husband heard the chaos off the back porch where he was collecting the burgers. He set the hot burgers on the kitchen island and calmly called the boys inside to have a seat around the living room.  Not quite knowing what else to do, our friends grabbed chairs a few feet away from the group but close enough to hear every word.

I tried not to think about our dinner growing cold as they talked through the blowup, and each boy got real as he shared his heart with the group.  Everyone was given a chance to share their side of the story, a focus was given on the root heart issue, which was value, and the boys were encouraged that value comes from the Lord and no one can take that away.  Well-deserved consequences were given, and everyone even laughed a little.

We finally did sit down for dinner to a loud table where we shared the day’s the highs and lows as we always did.   I wondered if my friends would even call it dining, as the food seemed to literally fly from the platters into the mouths of hungry boys.   Another whirlwind of brooms and dishcloths were on display when the boys were told they could start their dinner chores, and they worked quickly to be able to have more play time before bed.

Later, on their way home, Michelle sent me a sweet text to thank me for the evening.   She then shared with me that her and her husband were considering becoming houseparents themselves and asked that we pray for them in seeking the right direction. “We loved it so much and we were so thankful to see the discipleship, what a blessing it was to be there tonight!” she said.

I quickly texted back and told her we would be honored to pray for them. I got excited thinking about the possibility of working alongside of them in this season at the ranch. By now, the boys were all in bed and I straightened the last few things in the kitchen.  It was then that I realized the baked beans were still in the oven, I had never pulled them out for the meal. This night had been nothing like the last time we had dinner with them at a fancy restaurant in Dubai. But even with all the chaos, noise and cold burgers, my friend recognized how truly blessed our family was to be part of something much bigger. And she was right.